Men’s sprint to open Biathlon World Cup at Fort Kent

A skier takes off during a test race so the German broadcasting company ZDF can check its equipment at the 10th Mountain Center in Fort Kent. The International Biathlon Union will be holding World Cup events Thursday through Sunday. The races will be telecast in approximately 30 countries.
A skier takes off during a test race so the German broadcasting company ZDF can check its equipment at the 10th Mountain Center in Fort Kent. The International Biathlon Union will be holding World Cup events Thursday through Sunday. The races will be telecast in approximately 30 countries.
Posted Feb. 09, 2011, at 6:42 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 10, 2011, at 3:30 a.m.

The last race had barely finished and volunteers at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle were already hard at work taking down fences and sponsorship signs, preparing to truck them up Route 161 to Fort Kent.

The World Cup of Biathlon will head to the St. John Valley this weekend, with action shifting to the 10th Mountain Lodge in Fort Kent.

Racing gets under way with the men’s sprint Thursday at 11:30 a.m., while the women will hold their sprint race Friday, also at 11:30.

Saturday’s action features the men’s pursuit at 9:15 a.m., followed by the women at 12:05 p.m., while the weekend will close out Sunday with the men’s mass start at 10 a.m. and the women’s mass start at 12:15.

The mass start is the only race that wasn’t contested in Presque Isle, and it goes just like it sounds, with all the competitors going off in one big group. The men race 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) and the women 12.5 kilometers (just over 7.7 miles).

The remainder of the distances are: men’s sprint, 10K (6.2 miles); women’s sprint, 7.5K (4.6 miles); men’s pursuit, 12.5K, and women’s pursuit, 10K.

This isn’t Fort Kent’s first time hosting such a signature event, as the World Cup descended on the St. John Valley in 2004. It has also hosted several North American Cups and U.S. National Championships.

The Olympic sport of biathlon combines cross-country skiing with small-caliber rifle target shooting.

The United States team certainly put together some solid performances in Presque Isle, in particularly Sara Studebaker of Boise, Idaho.

She recorded the best Cup finish for any U.S. biathlete in the women’s sprint in finishing 14th, while wrapping up her weekend with a 28th-place run in the pursuit.

Team U.S.A. should also get a boost with the return of Tim Burke of Paul Smith’s, N.Y., who sat out the Presque Isle event due to illness.

Burke is currently 43rd in the Cup standings, while Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid, N.Y., is the top American man in 38th with 131 points.

Internationally on the men’s side, Norway’s Tarjei Boe managed to maintain his large lead in the Cup standings (679) despite not winning a race in Presque Isle.

Martin Fourcade of France, who was victorious in the pursuit event, is currently third with 567 points, while Germany’s Arnd Peiffer, who is fifth, will be one to watch out for in the sprint, as he was victorious in that race in Presque Isle.

Fourcade certainly has plenty of momentum, as his sprint victory in Presque Isle was his first career victory in World Cup competition.

For the women, Helena Ekholm of Sweden currently holds a slim lead over Kaisa Makarainen of Finland in the world rankings (637-630), and both are coming off strong performances in Presque Isle.

Ekholm will be one of the favorites in Friday’s sprint competition, as she claimed that race in Presque Isle.

She’ll be the first out of the starting gate being the Cup’s top-ranked woman.

Tora Berger of Norway, who is currently ranked fourth worldwide, is another solid threat, as she was victorious in the pursuit race.

Makarainen, Andrea Henkel of Germany and Marie Laure Brunet of France are in the top five worldwide as well.

Studebaker’s solid weekend in Presque Isle landed her 44th out of 87 women in the Cup ranks, while the the top-ranked U.S. athlete heading into the weekend is Laura Spector of Lennox, Mass., who is 41st.

The Fort Kent course differs from Presque Isle’s as it includes a difficult uphill climb roughly a quarter-mile from the starting line.

There’s also a possibility NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen may attend the event.

According to a report on Fastskier.com, Pippen may pay a visit to the venue Friday or Saturday as a guest of Russian International Biathlon Union vice president Sergei Kushchenko, the right-hand man of New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

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